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Monday, February 06, 2006

Chocolate – What’s Good, What’s Bad

2005 Valentine's day chocolate
Originally uploaded by appler.

If there is one food people are emotional about it’s chocolate. We love it, want it, crave it, fear it. Thoughts of chocolate evoke tender feelings of comfort and self-pampering. We associate chocolate with happy times and consider it a must-have tonic in times of stress and anxiety. With Valentine’s Day next week the store shelves are loaded with the “guilty pleasure.” Let’s take a look at the latest scientific beliefs and establish the facts before we let chocolate be part of our LivingAfterWLS diet.

Chocolate comes from roasted cacao beans, which are mashed into a thick paste, heated to liquid state and then tempered before being shaped into bars. Sugar and vanilla are added during the mashing phase. The result of this process is cocoa butter, chocolate liquor or cocoa.

The cocoa butter in chocolate is a saturated fat. According to recent studies the body is able to turn the cocoa butter fat into monounsaturated fat in a process similar to pressing olive oil. According to Dr. Andrew Weil chocolate appears to be neutral in regard to cardiovascular health and may actually lower serum cholesterol. In addition it contains strong antioxidant activity, equivalent to that of red wine and green tea.

Dr. David Katz, a nutrition expert with the Yale School of Medicine agrees with Dr. Weil. "There are some unique health benefits in chocolate," said Katz. “These include an array of antioxidants that have been shown to give some protection against cancer. In fact, cocoa has more flavanoids — an important antioxidant — than green tea. It's probably the richest source of flavanoids in our diet," he said.

Is this carte blanche to indulge in chocolate? Probably not. Dr. Katz warned “chocolate will never help you lose weight. While chocolate may be high in nutrients, it is also high in calories. Even a new sugar-free chocolate introduced by Godiva doesn't give people a free pass to go overboard.”

What is the best chocolate in respect for the WLS?

From a health standpoint the best choice is high-quality, plain, dark chocolate. Dr. Weil suggests, “Cheaper brands contain less actual chocolate, often replacing expensive cocoa butter with unhealthful hydrogenated vegetable oils. The first ingredient on a bar of high-quality chocolate should be chocolate (also called chocolate liquor, cacao or cocoa. It should never be sugar.”

Quality chocolate will bear a “percent” of cocoa. Bitter baking chocolate is 100% cocoa. Most people enjoy and are satisfied by 70 percent cocoa and 80 percent is too bitter than most people enjoy. Remarkably, most people who enjoy an occasional treat of quality chocolate report being satisfied with a very small one-once serving. carries a line of quality organic chocolate. A one-ounce serving of Dagoba 74% dark chocolate contains 159 calories, 7 grams fat, 13 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams protein, 8 grams sugar and 4 grams fiber.

In comparison, a 1-ounce serving of Hershey’s Dark chocolate contains 152 calories, 8.6 grams fat (4.6 grams saturated) 2 grams protein, 17 g grams carbohydrate, 15 grams sugar. And the Hershey’s Dark Chocolate is only 35% cocoa, which means the flavanoids, and antioxidants are not dense.

Either choice is a gamble. Considering the fat and sugar content of both examples even one ounce of chocolate is a potential dumping disaster for the gastric bypass patient. For the lap-band patient who doesn’t fear dumping the potential to eat more than a one ounce serving is a potential weight-gain disaster.

Dr. Katz said dark chocolate is the best choice because it is rich in fiber, magnesium and antioxidants. Moderation is the key. "It's an indulgence," said Katz. "But if you choose wisely, you can get some health benefits

1 comment:

Kim S. said...

I've read a lot about the benefits of dark chocolate and have incorporated a small dose into my daily diet. I take in 100 calories worth of dark organic chocolate and I eat it as part of my high protein, low calorie lunch. I never feel tempted to eat more than what I've portioned out for myself. Since I've made the decision to have it daily, it is no longer a "guilty food". No guilt, no overconsumption. I don't dump from this small amount, as it only has about 4 g of sugar.
Now, I'm more than two years post-op...I don't think that I'd try it as a newbie.